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Cybersecurity: The Next Great Battlefield

In this series of articles running through July, RealClearPolitics and RealClearDefense take an in-depth look at the intersection of cybersecurity, technology, and warfare in the 21st century. Below is Part 10.

Today more than ever, people are accessing transportation, financial information, entertainment, health services and shopping in an instant on their phones, computers, and tablets. Every day there are new announcements touting the latest breakthroughs in technology that will allow for simplification, automation, and the betterment of the lives of those around the world. This is making even more information available at our fingertips 24 hours a day, helping many people do more in less time.

But these innovations are also putting the personal information of consumers and customers more at risk to the ever-present and growing threat of cyberattacks. It feels like almost daily you hear of a company that didn’t invest in the right cyber defenses. Just recently, we learned of a massive information breach at the online genealogy platform MyHeritage that impacted the account information of 92 million users.

And it’s not just companies dealing in people’s personal data and identifiable information that are under attack. The popular national restaurant chain, Chili’s, announced a cyberattack on its internal information had compromised consumers’ financial data.

A quick Google search will show these were just two of many reports detailing cyberattacks targeting the personal information of millions of people not just in America, but around the world.

So, while the ease and simplification of daily tasks by technology seems great on the surface, it’s also led to a general feeling of unease by many who feel their personal information is being left vulnerable by the very companies they are using to simplify their lives. Nearly 70 percent of respondents to a recent PWC survey said they feel companies are vulnerable to cyberattacks, putting their personal information at risk.

Today’s “bad guys” are constantly becoming more sophisticated, are being backed by more powerful entities, and will only grow more sophisticated over time. They’ll always be looking for ways to profit from this glut of personal information streaming nonstop from phones, computers, and other systems around the clock. It’s also why companies today, more than ever, need to invest in protecting the personal and financial information of their customers and consumers with defense-grade cyber capabilities.

The risk of security breaches goes well beyond reputational damage: KPMG conducted a study that showed 19 percent of consumers would completely stop shopping at a retailer after a breach, and 33 percent would take a break from shopping there for an extended period. Just think of the reputational and financial benefit companies like Chili’s or Equifax could have seen if they had invested more on the front end to protect consumer data and their own intellectual property that was breached in these hacking attacks.

It’s clear that patchwork solutions to cyberthreats won’t cut it for companies doing business today. There can no longer be theoretical conversations about best practices, as the evidence shows the costs of ignoring cyberthreats are real for consumers and companies alike. Fortunately, the solution is simple. As companies continue to innovate, investment in defense-grade cyber capabilities is the clear path forward for tomorrow’s security decision makers. 

Sarah Pompei is the head of a public affairs consulting firm, POMPEI VIII, LLC. She previously worked on the public policy team at Lyft, was director of corporate communications at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and worked with numerous political campaigns and organizations across the country.

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